1 Samuel 31

A Sad Ending

Saul knows what the day holds for him and yet he shows some courage and leads the army of Israel into battle. The account of the battle does not offer many details, but it provides a picture of the way things went. Israel fought with the Philistines, but this would not be a day of victory. The army fell back until the hillsides of Mt. Gilboa were covered with the bodies of Saul's fallen men. Darkness had fallen on the battle before the Philistines understood the extent of their victory. The three sons of Saul fell that day which meant David's best friend died in war. The battle pressed in on Saul, and he was wounded by the Philistine archers. Knowing that if he fell into enemy hands, he might be abused, he ordered his armor-bearer to thrust him through. Saul's armor-bearer was terrified and could not honor his king's wishes so Saul, knowing the end had come, fell on his own sword and took his life. The armor-bearer did the same and died with him. This was a day that would live in infamy after the death of Israel's first king and his three sons. Darkness covered the field of blood and news of Israel's defeat spread to the surrounding cities. The people fled leaving their cities empty, so the Philistines came and lived in them. 

Insult To Injury

The following day the Philistines came for their plunder and discovered the bodies of Saul and his sons. They mutilated Saul's dead body by cutting off the head and sending it throughout the land. They carried the news to the people and published it in the houses of their idols. The Philistines took Saul's armor, and they placed it in the temple of Ashtaroth. The Philistines nailed Saul’s body and those of his sons to the wall of the town of Beth-shan. There was still courage in Israel, and the brave men of Jabesh-Gilead marched all night; they crossed Jordan; they climbed that steep summit, and silently detached the dead bodies from the walls. They carried the bodies to Jabesh, and although it was customary to bury the dead, they cremated the remains in order to prevent any further desecration of them. They buried the bones beneath a tree near their city. As a sign of public mourning and respect for the dead, the Gileadites fasted for seven days.

Things To Consider:

  • What do you think the day of battle was like for Saul knowing that he and his sons would die?
  • Do you think Saul did the wise thing by taking his life on the battlefield? Why?
  • What can we learn about ourselves from a promising king whose life ended poorly?
  • What can we learn from the efforts of the people of Jabesh-Gilead?